Being happy, developing to her full potential, and being part of a family-like environment. All of those played into the decision of four-star 2023 guard Montaya Dew when she committed to Arizona just before Christmas. Another player’s decision helped convince her that the Wildcats could provide all of that.
“Sam Thomas, she’s back because of the COVID year,” Dew said. “She wants to play for Adia Barnes and wants to continue to play under Adia Barnes. It just puts a whole other perspective into how much players trust in Coach Adia.”
There’s been a lot of talk that high school players might be concerned about the possible return of super seniors. Would recruits get the same kind of offers they used to get? Would they have the chance to play as early as they wanted to? For Dew, that’s of no concern. It’s more important that a super senior like Thomas chose to return when she could have either gone elsewhere to play or simply gone on with life after college basketball.
Also of concern for Dew was getting the recruiting process over as soon as possible. Once she felt comfortable with a school, she didn’t want to drag it out. Overall, she didn’t enjoy it.
“During the recruitment process, it was pretty stressful for me just knowing that I don’t talk a lot and there are a lot of schools that want to talk all the time,” Dew said. “And then Adia, just talking to her, I feel like I could talk to her about anything. She’s very dependable and down-to-earth—like, really down-to-earth. I feel like she and I will have a really good connection and bond when I go there.”
Dew took both an unofficial and an official visit to Arizona. She also visited a few other schools, but her official visit to Tucson pushed the Wildcats over the top.
“I want to play for a coach who will push me to my full potential and push me in the right direction, and not bring me down, but talk to me as a human and just push me,” Dew said.
Whether she felt that coach was Barnes or someone else was the question. The current Wildcats helped answer it.
“Just spending time with the players, to hear what they had to say on my unofficial about the coaches and the school,” Dew said. “What really influenced my decision is how highly they talk about Coach Adia and how they talked about everyone else. And then, when I was on my visit, I also saw that the team wasn’t just a team, it was more of a family and that was a big influence on my decision.”
That Thomas is one of the players providing an example for Dew is no coincidence. Both are products of the highly-successful Centennial High Bulldogs program in Las Vegas. Although Thomas is much older than Dew and they don’t know each other well, Dew has played pickup games against the Wildcat who helped Barnes rebuild Arizona into a program currently ranked No. 4 in the country.
Playing against Thomas, even in an informal environment, has given Dew an up-close look at the kind of defense that Barnes values. It’s something that players from Centennial are also expected to demonstrate.
“Defense is very important to Coach (Karen) Weitz and Coach (Katherine) Lutman,” Dew said.
Dew believes that her experiences with high school and AAU basketball have blended to produce the kind of player who can succeed at the Pac-12 level. She plays for the Las Vegas branch of Team Militant, which is based in Sacramento, Calif. The program recently started to branch off and merge with existing clubs around the West. One of those clubs was Lady Soldiers, which Dew had been a part of since her freshman year in high school. When she describes her coach with Team Militant, it sounds much like her description of Barnes.
“He’s a really down-to-earth person,” Dew said. “Like, he’s more like a brother, so I like just him first, as a person. I really like that about him. And then as travel ball, I like how we are able to travel into a good high-level competition.”
She also gets to travel for high-level competitions with Centennial. Dew spent New Year’s weekend at a high school tournament in Florida, arriving back in Nevada at 2 a.m. on Sunday. She and her team played quality competition, which she believes is preparing her for Arizona.
“I think having that higher ranking is just more pressure on us,” Dew said. “I feel I’m able to control the feeling and how I play, and just be able to calm down in tough situations and still be able to play no matter how I’m feeling.”
When she signs her NLI next November, Dew is expected to be joining a star-studded roster. The 2022 class was ranked No. 8 in the country even before the addition of Paris Clark. Can the class of 2023 surpass that?